Students in Northwest Missouri State University’s Trauma Informed Practices course took time recently to help Horace Mann Laboratory School students gain a better understanding of what it means to be compassionate, in addition to gaining a better understanding of the concept themselves.

Throughout the semester, students in the course gain an understanding of trauma, its prevalence in school systems and how it impacts development and behavior. Senior education majors take the course during their last semester at Northwest before beginning student teaching assignments.

Knowing the course content is heavy and emotional, Dr. Becky Moore, an assistant professor of professional education who developed and teaches the course, implemented the compassion and empathy module as a culminating component.

“The reality is everyone is struggling in one way or another; life is hard,” Moore said. “I was hopeful by ending the semester with an uplifting project it would lighten the load and heaviness my students were feeling but also help them see the importance of teaching young children what it means to be compassionate and have empathy for others.”

After class discussions centering on compassion and empathy, Northwest students began interacting with Horace Mann students and designed lessons teaching compassion and empathy.

“We learned a lot about when you are teaching every kid has a background that you don’t always know,” Kelsey Maxwell, a senior early childhood education major from Gallatin. “You should always have compassion because you don’t always know what they’re going through. Trauma is in every classroom and every kid has trauma so this was a nice project that comes from what we’ve learned.”

Small groups of Northwest and Horace Mann students also devised ways they could show kindness and compassion at the university. On Monday and Wednesday, the student groups crossed the Northwest campus, delivering notes with positive messages, candy and other treats to offices and buildings.

One group delivered cards and granola bars to wish good luck to the Bearcat women’s basketball team during its season. Another group painted inspirational messages on rocks they hid around campus.

Maxwell and Maddie Stark, a senior early childhood education major from Lawson, helped Horace Mann students distribute bags filled with a hot cocoa mix to employees in the Administration Building. Their students also carried thank you messages they created on poster board.

“The Administration Building doesn’t get a lot of thank yous even though they do so much behind the scenes,” Stark said of their decision to visit offices there.

Northwest students concluded the project by completing a reflection with Horace Mann students about how they felt as a result of participating in the compassion project.